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Why big beauty brands have to watch out ...

In the beauty sector, more and more small niche challengers are emerging that are highly specialised, use new digital distribution channels – and above all natural ingredients. Because beauty today is much more than just a “beautiful facade” and it can only be beautiful what in turn creates and effects beauty. This puts the cosmetics giants under pressure and requires a clear attitude and meaningful narratives.

David vs. Goliath?

Beauty is a very lucrative formula that can be summarized: symmetry plus good skin plus child scheme plus a waist-to-hip-ratio of 0.7 … and ready is the 250 billion dollar market. Right? Not anymore. Like everything else in our multilayered world, beauty is no longer as easy to explain and market. Urbanisation, digitalisation, a growing awareness of health and the environment are changing the context of our lives, our behaviour and, of course, our beliefs and narratives about beauty.

And this leads to a radical change, which is strongly felt by manufacturers, sales channels and advertisers. The big brands are losing ground to their small challengers. Those are growing by 15.7 percent annually, four times as fast as established cosmetics giants. Their market share is now already 10 percent. The management consultancy McKinsey thinks they know the reason: The Challenger are more digital. However, we think it’s not only the technology but the content and relationship strategy that really make the difference.

The rise of niche brands

The successful founders Jerrod Blandino and Jeremy Johnson of “Too faced” summarize their relationship strategy as follows: “We are the make up equivalent of your gay best friend! And whatever comes from them is exactly the same: loud, colourful, humorous and tongue-in-cheek.

And what about the successful newcomer Tata Harper? As a 100% natural brand that started with fund-raising while now growing by 50% annually with the message “Dare to go bare”. Here, too, digital technology was only the bearer of the message. The new, fresh beliefs and codes in the beauty sector are much more interesting to look at. And they are far too seldom the subject of discussion – so the much-discussed e-commerce and social media strategies have a break for a moment.

New narratives of beauty

There was a time when the opposite of “beautiful” “ugly” was true. If the dear God or your own DNA did not mean it well with you, you could mourn your fate bitterly or become active against the supposed ugliness. The promise: Cream yourself, make up yourself, colour yourself, operate yourself… and beauty is feasible. The result counts. And increasingly perfect digital-morphous advertising faces and bodies created a perfidious but lucrative, constant need for action.

Today a new narrative is added: beauty begins behind the façades, because it also counts how it was created. The opposite of “beautiful” today is consequently no longer “ugly” but “irresponsible”. Beauty today needs beautiful roots and must sow beautiful things. For this it must provide much more than a beautiful facade, namely for the health of body and mind, unvarnished authenticity, positive actions, meaningful connections and the celebration of diversity.

The Beauty Revolution: Attitude and meaning!

The revolution that the new brands have initiated in the beauty industry is not based on technology or innovative new products, but on a new attitude. This is where the small brands are making successful progress and retailers like Sephora are picking up the trend, because they too are interested in strong content and good relationship strategies. Only recently, for example, 50 ingredients were banned from their clean portfolio with their “Clean at Sephora” program.

But since our living conditions are in a state of great change, it is never too late to adopt a clear attitude and a meaningful narrative that fits and suits you. Finding future narratives is not reading in a glass ball. There are major trend movements that already sketch out developments today, that put brand manufacturers under pressure or offer them new opportunities to get closer to consumers again.

Doch da unsere Lebensumstände sich in einem starken Wandel befinden ist es nie zu spät, sich eine klare Haltung und ein sinnstiftendes Narrativ zuzulegen, das man vertreten kann und das zu einem passt. Denn zukünftige Narrative zu finden ist kein Lesen in der Glaskugel. Es gibt große Trendbewegungen, die heute schon Entwicklungen vorskizzieren, die Markenhersteller unter Zugzwang setzen oder ihnen neue Chancen bieten, wieder näher an den Konsumenten heranzukommen.

The three mega trends behind these changes

#1 Mind the Megacities

We are in the century of cities. More people already live in urban areas than in rural areas. By 2040, 65 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. Estimates for 2050 are 70 or even 80 percent. Urban life is increasingly perceived as toxic. Air pollution, UV pollution and HEV light are countered by people with “urban detox”, unhealthy nutrition with “anti-pollution food”, chronic sleep deprivation and growing inflammatory processes and stress with CBD and meditation or psychodermatology. And overall, there is a growing desire for simple, natural recipes for and a healthier, more holistic approach to beauty.

#2 Seamless Connection

The new technologies have fundamentally changed the way we shop and bring great opportunities with them. Large parts of the world’s population can now receive services and advice that would otherwise not be available. The beauty industry is investing heavily in AI-based diagnostic tools – such as L’Oreal’s SkinConsult AI. This allows skin to be scanned for signs of aging and treatment recommendations, among other things, using a photo. A trend that is becoming increasingly interesting, especially in view of an ageing society, but also for the growing new markets of India and China.

#3 Corporate Detox

What if it was possible to combine sustainability and profitability? Utopian? Patagonia is not the only brand that successfully shows that it is possible. Sustainability has had a widespread impact, which has led to increased consumer awareness of issues such as packaging waste, microplastics, manufacturing processes and ingredients. Even cosmetics giant Estee Lauder (brands such as Aveda and La Mer)has set itself the goal of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2020. This is a good and lucrative target, as sales of the Skin Care division grew by 16% in the first quarter of 2019 (not only but also for this reason).


Author Europa Bending

Author: Europa Bendig

STURMundDRANG founder and General Manager Europa Bendig has been consulting on innovation processes for NGOs and international enterprises for 18 years, primarily in the luxury goods, health, services, beauty, living and social businesses. She specializes in cultural codes and narratives that give brands and portfolios cultural relevance and promote customer loyalty.